Exercise And Other Heart Healthy Habits

From diet to exercise, learn how to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease.

By URLife Team
17 May 2023

Cardiovascular problems are increasingly becoming a concern for India’s population, with an estimated 2.8 million deaths due to cardiovascular ailments reported annually. This makes it one of the leading causes of death in the country. Understanding why heart ailments occur, what can be done to prevent them and other facts are essential for a healthy life. 

It's crucial to understand the risk factors and take preventative measures to maintain good heart health. Here are 12 heart disease facts every person should know to live a healthy life.


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Facts about Heart Health

1. Consuming 25 g of nuts 5 times a week can extend life expectancy 

According to a 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, individuals who consumed nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or peanuts) regularly had a reduced risk of dying from heart disease.

The study has shown that regularly eating a serving (about 28 grams) of nuts, at least five times a week is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. This moderate intake of nuts provides heart-healthy nutrients, including unsaturated fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.


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2. Sitting for long hours at a stretch is harmful  for your heart 

A 2023 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that spending excessive time sitting, also known as sedentary time, can increase the size of your heart three times more than doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. When the heart grows bigger, the walls of the heart chambers become thicker, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively. This can cause an increase in blood pressure, leading to conditions like hypertension, heart failure, and arrhythmia. On the other hand, physical activity is good for your cardiovascular health because it strengthens the heart muscle and improves its efficiency. Regular exercise helps the heart pump more blood with less effort, which reduces the risk of heart disease. The study looked at how much time people spent sitting still, doing light physical activity, and doing more intense physical activity, and how this affected the way their hearts worked. The researchers found that sitting still for long periods of time may be harmful to your heart and that doing more exercise may help keep your heart healthy.

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3. Being fit offsets the negative impact of high blood pressure on heart health

A 2023 published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Science of Cardiology, suggests that men with high blood pressure may have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease if they have high fitness levels. The research found that maintaining good physical fitness can help reduce the risk of heart disease-related deaths in men with high blood pressure over a long period.

Being physically active and having good fitness levels can help reduce the strain on the heart and blood vessels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improve overall heart health. Regular exercise can also help reduce other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity, diabetes, and stress.


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4. 11-minute brisk walk is enough to reduce the risk of early death due to cardiovascular problems

A 2023 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that doing 11 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day (for a total of 75 minutes a week) can help lower the risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. These diseases cause a lot of deaths globally every year. Physical activity, especially moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, can help lower the risk of these diseases. The National Health Service recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week.

The human body is designed to move, and regular physical activity has been shown to have a range of health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular risks. When we engage in physical activity, our muscles work harder, our heart beats faster, and our breathing rate increases. This increased physical effort helps improve our cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of conditions like heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.


5. Waist to height of patients can be a better indicator of health risks compared to body mass index (BMI)

Another 2023 study published in the European Heart Journal suggests that measuring the ratio of waist to height of patients can be a better indicator of health risks compared to body mass index (BMI). The study found that the supposed survival advantage of people with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or more disappears when doctors use the waist-to-height ratio instead.
The "obesity paradox" refers to a confusing finding that people who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of developing heart problems, but those with higher BMIs appear to do better and have a lower risk of dying once they have a heart condition. There have been various explanations for this paradox, including the idea that extra fat might be somehow protective for people who have developed a severe and chronic illness, especially as they often lose weight.

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6. Social isolation and loneliness increase the risk for heart failure

Recent research by the American College of Cardiology has found that social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but the relationship between these factors and heart failure has not been fully understood. A new study published in JACC: Heart Failure has found that both social isolation and loneliness are linked to higher rates of heart failure. Interestingly, the study found that feeling lonely is a stronger predictor of heart failure risk than being alone.

There are two main components to social disconnection: social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation refers to being physically alone or having infrequent social connections, while loneliness is the feeling of distress that results from having less social interaction than someone desires. So, even if someone is surrounded by people, they may still feel lonely if their level of social interaction is not as fulfilling as they would like it to be.


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7. Poor dental hygiene is linked to poor heart health

Several studies have suggested a link between poor dental hygiene and an increased risk of heart disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, in particular, has been found to be associated with a higher likelihood of developing heart disease. One possible explanation is that the bacteria present in the mouth due to poor dental hygiene can enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation and potentially contributing to the development or progression of cardiovascular conditions.

Periodontitis and cardiovascular disease: A review of the literature, which was published in the Journal of Periodontology, found that people with periodontitis were nearly twice as likely to have heart disease compared to those with healthy gums. The study suggested that the bacteria associated with gum disease may contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between poor dental hygiene and heart disease, and how to prevent and manage this potential risk factor. To maintain good oral hygiene, visit a dentist now.


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8. Six hours or more than nine hours of sleep per night had a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease

Both insufficient and excessive sleep durations have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Researchers have found that both short sleep (less than six hours) and long sleep (more than nine hours) can contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems. 

There have been several studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep duration and heart health. One such study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2014, found that both short and long sleep durations were associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The study followed over 470,000 participants for an average of 7.8 years and found that individuals who slept less than six hours or more than nine hours per night had a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to those who slept between six and nine hours. The study suggested that this increased risk may be due to changes in cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and inflammation. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy sleep duration to promote heart health.

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9. Chronic low-grade inflammation leads to heart diseases

A 2017 study p​​ublished in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology investigated the relationship between inflammation and atherosclerosis, which is a condition where fatty deposits build up in the walls of arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease. The study found that chronic low-grade inflammation can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis through a complex series of events. One key factor is the presence of inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines, which are produced by immune cells in response to a perceived threat. These cytokines can promote the formation of fatty deposits in the walls of arteries, leading to the development of atherosclerosis. Chronic inflammation can also lead to damage and dysfunction of the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. This can result in the loss of the protective barrier function of the endothelium, making it easier for harmful substances to enter the walls of arteries and promote the development of atherosclerosis. So, to keep your health in check, consider taking regular health risk assessments. With UR.Life HRA you can easily take HRA and know better about your health.

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10. 1-2 cups of green tea daily is associated with a lower risk of heart disease

A meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 2014 looked at several prospective cohort studies that investigated the association between green tea consumption and the risk of developing heart disease. The analysis found that drinking two cups of green tea per day was associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who drank less than one cup per day.

The mechanism behind this association is believed to be related to the polyphenols in green tea. These compounds have been shown to improve endothelial function, which is the ability of blood vessels to relax and dilate, leading to improved blood flow and lower blood pressure. Additionally, polyphenols may also reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.


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11. 2-3 servings of whole grains daily is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease

Whole grains are an important source of dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and have been found to have numerous health benefits. One of these benefits is their positive effect on heart health. Consuming 2-3 servings of whole grains daily has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

The fibre in whole grains can help reduce cholesterol levels, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Whole grains also contain antioxidants and other phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect against the development of heart disease. The meta-analysis of cohort studies mentioned in the study looked at data from multiple studies and found a consistent association between consuming 2-3 servings of whole grains daily and better heart health outcomes. This reinforces the importance of including whole grains in a healthy diet to reduce the risk of heart disease.

12. A Mediterranean lifestyle prevents death from heart diseases

A 2013 PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that those following the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, compared to those following the low-fat diet. The researchers attributed this to the high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil in the Mediterranean diet, which are rich in antioxidants, fibre, and healthy fats that may help improve heart health.

The Mediterranean lifestyle also includes regular physical activity, stress management, and social interaction, which are additional factors that may contribute to its heart-protective effects.


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